On any given day, the warehouse fulfillment center at C. Forbes, Inc. is a sea of activity, with Sam, Alec and Kris coordinating photo shoots, assembling custom plaques, framing certificates and awards, and packing and shipping merchandise orders. This week, we are pleased to participate in a completely different and highly worthy task: the assembly of 50, Phase -1 prototype bags for parents with infants in the NICU. A local initiative, called “Angelina’s Bouquet”, is the creation of Kelly Hines, based on her personal journey that began unexpectedly in March 2016 with the birth of her daughter, Angelina.
Born 15 weeks premature, and weighing just one-and-a half pounds, Angelina was immediately placed in an incubator in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, Va. where she remained for the next 130 days. Kelly soon realized that Angelina’s birth was not met with the traditional congratulatory messages, gifts and well wishes. Instead, there was a void that NICU parents don’t often mention: “they need to feel surrounded not by pity, but by things that can put some practical, emotional and congratulatory wind in their sails.” An idea was born to meet the need.
Determination to Meet an Unmet Need
During the 5-month stay in the NICU, Kelly developed a list of items that were “practical, morale-boosting and comforting.” In conjunction with the March of Dimes, numerous other professionals, parents, and organizations, a list of 25 items, known as “Angelina’s Bouquet” was developed. The contents fall into various categories:
“Congratulations!” greeting card
Book: On the Night You Were Born, by Nancy Tillman
Tiny (4-inch) Elmo (in Ziploc bag serving as nearby bright spot for the baby)
Angelina’s Story- a brief brochure written by Kelly Hines
Flexible-neck, clamp-on mirror
Pack of micro-steam bags
Package of hand sanitizing wipes
Small clip-on hand sanitizer
Inflatable travel pillow
Journal and pen
Small journal (breast pumping log) and pen
Small LED flashlight
Kleenex slim pack
Small fold-away laundry bag (for taking baby things home to wash)
Baby’s first onesie
3 zip mesh pouches (small, medium and large) for miscellaneous uses
Handy referral card with NICU acronyms and with grams/ounces conversion
Business-size cards for friends/family: what to know and say regarding the newborn preemie
Business-size cards for friends/family: what to know and say regarding the baby’s homecoming
Self- Indulgent Items
Shea Butter hand cream
Opportunity To Help Others
Stamped addressed envelope with request for feedback
“Pay it Forward” card with information on how to fund “Angelina’s Bouquet” for other NICU parents
The March of Dimes and Community Involvement
With over 80,000 preemies (babies born before 32 weeks) each year in the U.S., the ultimate goal is the ability to provide “Angelina’s Bouquet” at no cost to parents or hospitals. To meet that goal, Kelly has developed a plan of action that is well researched and well thought out. Creating several different avenues to spread the message, endorsements from The March of Dimes, which focuses on NICU issues, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Richmond, and the Greater Richmond ARC are assisting in this endeavor.
The starting point is the assembly of 50, Phase -1 prototypes, with the contents packed in high-end bags donated by The Ronald McDonald House Charities. These have now been assembled at the C. Forbes, Inc. facility and will be taken to the March of Dimes for presentation to 50 local NICU families and the gathering of feedback.
Phase II involves an additional 150 prototype bags that the March of Dimes will distribute to 50 NICU families in each of 3 communities around the nation. Hopefully the feedback from Phase II will allow for national production to begin. The March of Dimes is providing the staffing and resources to distribute the “bouquets.”
“Paying it Forward”
Funding for “Angelina’s Bouquet” is a two-pronged approach: the “Pay it Forward” card, allowing NICU families to assist another family in a similar situation; and corporate donations, allowing for corporations to pay for the opportunity of having their brands associated with “Angelina’s Bouquet.”
As Angelina gets ready to celebrate her first birthday next month, there is much to be grateful for, but challenges exist. Angelina’s immune system is still developing, meaning 24/7 care is needed and Kelly is not able to work outside of the home. Non-family members aren’t permitted to assist in care taking. Kelly also hopes that funds will be raised for the March of Dimes itself, which already held a special place in the heart of Kelly’s family. Her father (Angelina’s grandfather), John Bryan, grew up during the global polio epidemic and saw the miracle eradication that the March of Dimes helped produce.